What does a Sanitarian do?

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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 January 2020
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A sanitarian, who is sometimes referred to as a public health inspector, is a person who visits businesses in his area in order to make sure standards of cleanliness and sanitation are enforced. He may conduct either routine or surprise inspections in order to safeguard public health. He might also impose fines or, in some instances, force a temporary closure of an establishment whose workers violate health and safety regulations.

Public health inspectors usually make calls on businesses like restaurants, hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, and taverns. During these visits, a sanitarian normally checks to make sure the establishment is using the proper procedures for cooking food or sanitizing equipment. They might take samples of the food or test meats to ensure they are prepared to the proper temperatures. They might also check the temperature of freezers and refrigerators to make sure they are operating properly, so that no bacteria can grow.

Sanitarians might also watch employees who are going about their usual routines, in order to determine whether or not the business follows the appropriate health laws and regulations. For example, the inspector might observe whether or not workers wash their hands after using the restroom. They might also check the overall cleanliness of the building, and whether or not vermin or insects are present.


These individuals are not limited to inspecting facilities where food is prepared and served. They might also check on factories, office buildings, and government agencies. During these visits, they may check to see if there is mold in the building and if the heating system is working properly during the winter months.

During a visit, a sanitarian usually records his findings on a form that somewhat resembles a checklist. This paper is usually used to record deficiencies and to score the establishment according to how well it complies with local laws. A copy of this report is usually given to the owner of the business and another copy filed as part of an official record.

Health and safety technicians normally have a broad range of authority. They do not usually need to seek permission from management before entering the premises. They often impose sanctions against businesses who fail to comply with public health laws. Establishments that are closed due to a substandard health inspection typically need to be re-inspected before being allowed to reopen.

Public health inspectors should be very familiar with all the health and sanitation laws in their jurisdiction. This can mean that a sanitarian will need to pursue continuing education. Although it is not normally required, inspectors may want to become certified by taking a licensing exam. These individuals provide a valuable service to ordinary citizens by ensuring laws that safeguard public health are followed and enforced.


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